Braves Top 10 Prospects
- AJ Smith-Shawver
- Hurston Waldrep
- JR Ritchie
- Owen Murphy
- Spencer Schwellenbach
- David McCabe
- Drake Baldwin
- Ignacio Alvarez
- Drue Hackenberg
- Cade Kuehler
The depth of the Braves farm system is barren, but there are plenty of exciting prospects at the top, led by two high-powered arms. AJ Smith-Shawver and Hurston Waldrep are undoubtedly Atlanta’s top two prospects.
We saw a glimpse of Smith-Shawver at the major-league level in 2023 after he began the year in high-A Rome. That’s a ridiculous rise for a 20-year-old that just began to pitch a few years ago. The expectation is for him to be a big part of the Braves as early as next year.
Waldrep could be joining Smith-Shawver in the majors as well. Armed with a mid-to-high 90s fastball and a nasty split changeup, he struck out batters in bunches at the University of Florida, and that trend continued in his first taste of professional baseball. Waldrep began his professional career in Low-A Augusta and ended in AAA, recording a 1.53 ERA and 10.4 K/9 across three levels. The Braves haven’t hesitated in bringing their high-powered arms to the majors quickly. It’s very likely Waldrep gets his first taste of major-league ball in 2024.
JR Ritchie and Owen Murphy are two top 35 picks from the 2022 draft. They’ve both had success in the low level of the minors; although, Ritchie underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this year and will likely miss all of the 2024 campaign. Both drafted out of high school, it will be a while before either is considered for the major-league roster.
Schwellenbach is a name to watch in 2024. In his first year back from Tommy John surgery, he excelled on the mound, posting a 2.49 ERA across two levels (A-A+). A 2024 MLB debut may be wishful thinking, but it’s not totally out of the realm of possibility.
I was very pleased to see Baseball America as high on David McCabe as I am. Taken in the fourth-round of the 2022 MLB Draft, he’s a lumbering switch hitter that has a ton of pop in his bat. Across two levels (A-A+), he hit .276 with 17 homers and an .835 OPS. McCabe likely will get his first real test next year in AA Mississippi.
Drake Baldwin is another exciting prospect from the 2022 MLB Draft that was selected a round before McCabe. The catcher spent most of the season in high-A Rome, but his final three games took place with AAA Gwinnett, blasting 16 homers with an .840 OPS across three levels. He could potentially be the Braves backup catcher behind Sean Murphy when they move on from Travis d’Arnaud.
Ignacio Alvarez is a younger prospect at just 20 years of age, but he spent all of 2023 in High-A Rome and held his own pretty well, hitting .284 with seven homers and a .787 OPS.
Drue Hackenberg and Cade Kuehler were the Braves second round selections from this year’s draft. Hackenberg, the brother of former NFL quarterback Christian Hackenberg, had a ridiculous 12 strikeouts in his first 5.2 innings for Augusta, and Kuehler did not allow a run in his first seven innings. Both are intriguing arms taken out of college that could rise through the system quickly.
Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire